GoGo Chicken to use facial recognition, GPS tracking to provide window into life cycle of food

By Tim Nelson
Updated February 13, 2018
Credit: Anthony Lee via Getty Images

Despite the concept’s popularity, we usually just have to take the farm’s word for it when it comes to assessing farm-to-table practices. But if a new venture in China combining free-range chicken farming and facial recognition software is any indication, diners could soon enjoy unprecedented insight into the life cycles of our meals.

Launched by Chinese insurance tech company ZhongAn, “GoGo Chicken” will use blockchain technology (the same anti-data tampering tech that makes cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin so valuable) to power facial-recognition software that connects consumers with their pre-ordered chicken via smartphone app. GPS tracking will also show off just how far the free-range birds travel, and other tracking systems will monitor their diet over the course of their four to six-month lifespan (compared to just 45 days for factory-raised poultry).

The push to connect poultry to the increasingly pervasive “Internet of Things” stems from the growth of China’s “farm-based tourism” movement, which sees health-conscious urban dwellers travelling to rural provinces to get a better understanding of where their food comes from. GoGo Chicken opens up that experience to a broader segment of China’s emerging middle class by bringing the chickens to them via smartphone. “When you shop and see raw chicken [from us], you can simply check on your smartphone app to know its birthplace, what food it ate and how many steps it walked during its life,” ZhongAn Tech CEO Chen Wei told the South China Morning Post.

Since first launching in Anhui province back in June, 100,000 chickens have been outfitted with GPS trackers. ZhongAn hopes to boost that number to 23 million over the next three years thanks to support from provincial governments and lenders.

The idea of effectively video chatting with an animal that will eventually end up on your plate certainly feels dystopian. But at a time when there’s less clarity than ever on what constitutes ethical farming practices, a service like GoGo Chicken could theoretically introduce some needed transparency over time. Just don’t burn through all your monthly data looking at what’s for dinner.